October 23, 2011
Annoyance at wind turbines is not the same as a health issue
Wind energy in Canada is now on track to enjoy a record year in 2011 with approximately 1,338 MW of new installed wind energy capacity projected to come online. These new installations represent almost $3.5 billion in investment and have created more than 13,500 person years of employment in addition to providing emissions-free electricity for families and businesses.
Ontario is Canada’s leader in wind energy development, and 2011 will also be a record year for wind energy installations in the province, with more than 500 MW projected to be installed by year end.
Hamilton council recently passed a motion calling for a moratorium on wind energy development until further studies are conducted into potential health effects from wind turbines. While it is important to review new and credible information related to wind turbines and human health, the balance of scientific and medical research to date — including a report by the province’s own chief medical officer of health — has found that there is nothing unique about the sound produced by wind turbines and that wind turbines do not have a direct impact on human health.
In fact, there are well over 100,000 turbines operating worldwide and hundreds of thousands of people living and working near and around them, the overwhelming majority of whom have productive and positive experiences. While a small percentage of people may be annoyed if wind turbines are in their vicinity, annoyance is a personal experience that can be caused by many things and be influenced by many different factors and stressors in a person’s life. If annoyance has a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life, they might wish to consult their doctor.
It is also important to note that wind energy is developed in Ontario under noise guidelines that are in place to protect the health and safety of residents. The setbacks for turbines and the renewable energy approval process are among the most stringent in North America.
Wind energy’s rapid growth in Ontario is not unique — wind energy production worldwide has grown at an average annual rate of more than 25 per cent a year for the last 15 years and more than 70 countries now produce electricity from wind energy. While the fact that wind energy is broadly recognized as an electricity source with relatively low environmental impacts has been a key driver for growth, the economic benefits of wind energy development have been an important driver as well.
A landmark study, The Economic Impacts of the Wind Energy Sector in Ontario 2011-2018, by ClearSky Advisors, demonstrates that meeting the wind energy targets identified under the province’s Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) would result in: creation of more than 80,000 person-years of employment; more than $16 billion in total private-sector investment, with over $8.5 billion invested directly in Ontario’s manufacturing, construction and service sectors; and more than $1.1 billion in revenues to local municipalities and landowners in the form of taxes and lease payments over the 20-year lifespan of the projects.
In fact, growth in wind energy in Ontario is providing optimism and much-needed new manufacturing and construction jobs right now throughout southwestern Ontario. While polling consistently shows that a significant majority of Ontario residents support more wind energy development in Ontario, this support must be earned on an ongoing basis through effective and meaningful engagement with communities and responsible industry practices. We have worked diligently the past two years to hear and respond to concerns from communities and individuals and have developed best practices in community engagement and local consultation with the direct input of dozens of municipal leaders and stakeholders from the agricultural, environmental and business communities.
Wind energy is playing a major role in the renewal of Ontario’s electricity sector and is poised to contribute significantly more — for the benefit of Ontarians.
Chris Forrest is vice-president of communications at the Canadian Wind Energy Association.